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Why You Should Keep Going If You Are Sore After Exercising

By Dr. Riley Williams with contribution from Evan Schwartz .

Coaches say it all the time: there’s a difference between being hurt and being injured.

In simple terms, “hurt” means you are in pain. An “injury” means that you have bodily harm. Injuries keep athletes on the bench or in the training room, but athletes play hurt all the time.

But if you aren’t getting paid to play sports, getting hurt may be the end of your workout. You may think that pain is the signal to shut it down and stop working out. In truth, for certain types of pain, the best thing you can do is to keep working out. Here’s why.

Let’s say you have back pain. Our backs are complicated, and nearly everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

A body in motion facilitates faster healing.

Back pain can originate from so many things: sleeping funny, being overweight, bending down to pick up something, or twisting to put on a seat belt. If you run for exercise, back pain may be enough to keep you on ice for weeks.

But even if back pain puts stops you from running for a while, it doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. With a back injury, high-impact exercise like running or lifting heavy weight can aggravate your pain so that you might want to stop activity all together. That may not be a good idea.

Certain exercises can actually help you heal faster and ensure you don’t lose all that great momentum you’ve built up from exercising regularly.  (You should speak with your doctor before exercising if you are concerned about serious injury.)

Instead of running, a brisk walk on a level surface allows you to continue exercising at lower impact while stimulating blood flow throughout your body.  In many cases, a static body will heal slower than a body in motion.  A body in motion drives blood circulation, which reduces inflammation and facilitates faster healing.

The more blood flow, the better your body can repair damaged tissue and remove inflammatory agents from those painful hot spots. It’s the reason that your surgeon wants you walking as soon as you humanly possible following knee or back surgery. And it’s the reason why a football player who strains a knee heads to the locker room to get on on an exercise bike. Moving helps healing.

If your back is still barking, you can try a new exercise altogether.

Although swimming involves your back muscles, it eliminates the pounding from running or walking.  Swimming can be a complete aerobic workout that can help strengthen your core, which can reduce the likelihood of more back injuries in the future.

If your pain level increases with these activities, you may be injured, and not hurt. Relentless pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop what you are doing and consult a doctor or trainer.

But sometimes, a little soreness can be stamped out with more physical activity.

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